Monday, September 2, 2013

Crockpots Rock

We tackled two crockpot meals over the last couple weeks and I figured it was time to share. Both hail from the Slow Cooker Revolution cookbook and one was a recipe we had successfully tried months earlier and had the taste for once again.

First up, Old-Fashioned Tamale Pie. This Tex-Mex dish was easy enough once we found all of the ingredients, including Minute tapioca and instant polenta. The latter of which I spent about 4 trips down the same grocery store aisle searching for until it was finally pointed out right in front of my face.

Old-Fashioned Tamale Pie
Serves 6-8
4 hours on low

2 1/4 cups water
3/4 cup instant polenta
Salt and Pepper
1 cup shredded cheddar
1 Tbs butter
1 minced onion
1 Tbs vegetable oil
3 minced garlic cloves
1 Tbs chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
4 cups shredded cooked chicken
1 15-oz can rinsed and drained black beans
1 15-oz can creamed corn
1 10-oz can enchilada sauce
2 Tbs Minute tapioca
2 Tbs minced fresh cilantro
Lime wedges for serving

The ingredient list may look a bit daunting, but it all came together quite easily. The water, polenta and 1 teaspoon salt were mixed in a bowl and microwaved until water is absorbed, about 6 minutes. Stir the polenta and continue to microwave until polenta is creamy. We stirred in the cheddar and butter, more salt and pepper and kept covered off to the side.
The onion, oil, garlic, chili powder and cumin were mixed in another bowl and microwaved for about 5 minutes. I had to read that a few times to make sure they were truly telling me to nuke the onion and not saute in a pan, but lo and behold it worked!

The onion mixture was laid out on the bottom of the crockpot and quickly topped with the chicken, beans, corn, enchilada sauce and tapioca. 
For the cooked chicken, I used the KitchenAid mixer chicken shredder trick seen on Pinterest and detailed here in one of my shortest posts ever. 
After stirring together the crockpot fixins, the polenta was spooned on top and smoothed into an even layer. We heated it for 4 hours on low before dipping in and topping with cilantro and lime for serving.
Great flavors and hardly any work? Sign me up.

The recipe we had made once before to rave reviews was the Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna.  I first heard of making a lasagna in a slow cooker when I witnessed my sister whipping up dinner this way a couple years ago and thought it was quite the cool idea.

Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna
Serves 6-8
4 hours on low

Cooking spray
8 lasagna noodles, broken in half and cooked
Salt and Pepper
1 Tbs olive oil
1 1/2 lbs white mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
2 minced garlic cloves
20 oz frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry, chopped coarse
1 15-oz jar alfredo sauce
15-oz ricotta cheese
1 1/4 cups grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup minced basil
1 large egg
1 lb shredded mozzarella

This recipe taught me how to make a foil sling within the crockpot to keep it nice and clean and provide a way to easily remove the lasagna from the dish for slicing and dicing in while not losing its shape.

A foil collar is created by folding over a piece of tin foil a few times and lining against the back (the hottest) part of the slow cooker. 
Then, perpendicular pieces of foil and fitted within with enough hanging over the edge for easy grasping. Spraying down the sling with cooking spray ensures no sticking, though I accidentally missed this step and did not have a disaster on my hands!
After cooking the broken noodles and setting aside, the mushrooms, garlic and 1/4 tsp salt are cooked in a covered pot with shimmering hot oil. After about 5 minutes, uncover and cook until liquid is evaporated and mushrooms are browned. Stir in spinach and alfredo sauce and season with salt and pepper.
In a bowl, mix the ricotta, parmesan, basil, egg, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper and set aside. Spread a bit of the mushroom sauce into the crockpot, over the top of the foil sling. Place 4 lasagna noodles over the mushroomy bottom and then dollop with the ricotta mixture. Add 1 cup mozz and another layer of the mushroom-spinach mixture. Repeat noodles, ricotta, mozzarella, sauce layering two more times.

Top with remaining 4 noodles and the rest of the sauce, sprinkle with leftover mozz and parmesan. Cover and cook for 4 hours on low.
Using the sling, we transferred out of the crockpot and cut up after letting it cool for about 20 minutes. 
Half went in the fridge, half went in the freezer for future meals and lazy days.
Because these recipes called for four hours on low, we ended up doing both on a Sunday at home as opposed to popping them in on a weekday and not arriving back to the homestead for at least 9 hours. We made the tamale pie first and then got all of the lasagna stuff together so it could cook while we were eating and we could freeze it when all finished. It was a busy day in the kitchen, but not having the oven on during a Chicago heat wave was certainly a nice treat.

With fall upon us, you can bet this crockpot will be getting a lot more use.

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